Olympus FE-5010 Zoom Review

Building on the past success of the 'FE' line of digital cameras, Olympus has introduced the FE-5010. As the new top of the FE series, the 5010 sports a 12-Megapixel CCD imaging sensor, TruePic III image processor, 5x optical zoom lens, Dual Image Stabilization and 18 shooting modes. Along with the shooting modes is an Intelligent Auto shooting mode, in which the camera picks the correct SCN mode for the camera to shoot in. This takes all of the guess work out of shooting in tough conditions. Olympus has also continued the in-camera guide that briefly explains different settings in the camera, allowing you to learn at your own pace.

Handling the 5010 is very easy with two hands via the 'pinch' technique for shooting or operating any of the cameras features or menus. Shooting can also be done easily with one hand; however, working the menus can be difficult. The ease of use is due to the layout of the camera. All of the buttons on the camera are well placed and easy for the right hand to access. On the back, the zoom works easily with the thumb while the other controls sit just beneath. The 4-way control button was a little tough to use at times, requiring me to press the side of the button more than once to get it to work. Other than that, the buttons and menus are very easy to use and follow.

Taking up most of the back of the camera is the 2.7-inch LCD screen. Since there is no optical view finder, this is how you will be framing and viewing your images as well as navigating your menus. Featuring 2 steps of brightness adjustment and a backlight boost, the screen is bright and clear enough to see in all lighting conditions, including direct sunlight. With 230,000 pixels, you will also like the amount of detail that you see when you are viewing and editing your images.

Performance from the 5010 is slightly better than that of the FE-340 but still on the disappointing side. When turning on the camera, it takes 2.3 seconds before it can capture its first image. Shutter lag, the time from when you press the shutter release till the image is captured, was almost instantaneous when the camera was pre-focused. When allowing the camera to auto focus, it took 4/10 to 5/10 of a second. Single shot mode allowed me to capture 5 images in 10.7 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 13.6 seconds with it. This is a bit slow considering that there are no continuous or burst shooting modes. All of our tests were completed using an Olympus H 1GB xD picture card, program mode, flash off, 12-Megapixel Fine quality and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, photographer response, media, etc.

Quality from our outdoor images is excellent. The camera captured crisp, sharp images with excellent exposures and bright, vivid colors. You will notice a little noise in dark and shadow areas as well as the darker areas of the sky. Combining this with the 5x (36 - 180mm, 35mm equivalent) optical zoom lens, you have a very versatile camera. The wide end is good for landscape and group photography, while the telephoto end does a nice job of getting you closer to distant objects. Assisting you with these shots by helping steady the image sensor, is the camera's dual image stabilization system. On the wide end of the zoom you will see some barrel distortion and there are some slight aberrations in high contrast areas as you will see along the sides of the building in our museum shot.

Our indoor image quality is also very good; however, when not using the flash indoors, there seems to be a little more noise. With the flash off, the exposures are good when the camera has enough light to properly expose the image. Since in program mode, the exposure stops at 1/4 second, dim lighting situations can end up under exposed. The auto white balance did and excellent job of maintaining colors between flash and non-flash images. It also did very well in portrait shots by producing realistic looking skin tones.

The built in flash has a range of approx. 1 to 12.8 feet at ISO 800. This range gets much smaller as you reach ISO 100 or 200, forcing you to be closer to your subjects when using the flash. Macro photography is handled very well, as the flash does not over expose the images, even when just a few inches away.

Movie mode allows for the capture of 640x480 or 320x240 sized movies at 15 or 30 fps with audio. Our movie sample was taken at 30 fps VGA (640x480) mode, producing a very smooth video. The slightly dark room produced some noise in the video, which is common for a consumer digicam. The onboard mic does an excellent job of picking up any sounds that take place near the camera, but does not work for sounds that are off in the distance.

Powering the FE-5010 is the LI-42B, a 3.7v, 740mAh rechargeable Lithium Ion battery and charger. Olympus claims that this battery will allow the camera to capture up to 180 images. I was able to capture around 80 images and few videos with some viewing on the camera, but I was not able to complete all of my tests afterwards without charging the battery again first. Because of this we highly recommend that you keep a second battery pack on hand at all times.

Bottom Line - The Olympus FE-5010 is a great new addition to the already successful 'FE' line of cameras. The 12-Megapixel point and shoot is incredibly easy for anyone to use with 18 shooting modes, including several pre-programmed SCeNe modes and the new Intelligent Auto mode that automatically picks a scene mode for you. Although the performance is a little slow, the image quality is very good, and with a MSRP of US$189.99, this is an excellent choice for someone looking to explore the world of digital photography.

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